Your guide to Canada’s national dementia strategy
On June 17, 2019, the Government of Canada released the country’s first-ever national dementia strategy: A Dementia Strategy for Canada: Together We Aspire. The strategy will address the overwhelming scale, impact and cost of dementia in Canada through three key objectives:
Advance therapies and find a cure, and
Improve the quality of life of people living with dementia and caregivers.
On this page, learn more about the strategy and what it means for Canadians.
1. What is a dementia strategy?
Dementia strategies can vary a lot from country to country, but generally they all allow for government agencies and stakeholders to coordinate and collaborate on the following:
- Raising awareness of dementia and eliminating stigma
- Funding and supporting innovative dementia research that advance therapies and work toward finding a cure
- Promoting healthy strategies to reduce the risk of dementia
- Improving care and support among programs and services that help people with dementia and caregivers
- Collecting public health data on dementia to track the progress and impact of all of the above
2. Will the strategy make a difference for Canadians living with dementia?
Yes. The national dementia strategy is the single most powerful tool to improve dementia care and support, making it a necessary next step for Canada.
The strategy ensures that all Canadians living with dementia, their families and their caregivers have the same level of access, quality of care and services, regardless of where they live.
Proven programs and supports will be scaled up and shared across jurisdictions and will benefit everyone, from people living with dementia to their caregivers and healthcare providers.
How can we be sure of this? We know from successful launches of dementia strategies in other countries that coordinated and targeted action at the national level delivers results (see below). We also know that pan-Canadian strategies can significantly improve quality of care and longevity of life – for example, see the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC).
3. How did the strategy happen?
June 22, 2017 – Thanks to advocacy efforts from stakeholders across the country, Bill C-233, the National Strategy for Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias Act is signed into law. With this bill passed, Canada could begin developing a national dementia strategy.
May 14-15, 2018 – The Government of Canada hosts the National Dementia Conference in Ottawa, collecting thoughts and opinions about the potential strategy from a group of participants that included people with dementia, caregivers, researchers, health professionals, advocacy groups as well as representatives from provincial and territorial governments.
During this conference, the Minister of Health announces the formation of a Ministerial Advisory Board on Dementia (see below), which will advise on dementia care and the development of the national dementia strategy. The CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Canada, Pauline Tardif, is named co-chair.
March 20, 2019 – The 2019 federal budget invests $50 million over five years to support implementation of the national dementia strategy. This funding comes on top of the $20 million for community-based dementia projects announced in the 2018 budget. As well, the Minister of Seniors is established with a mandate to work with the Minister of Health on dementia-related issues.
June 17, 2019 – Almost two years after it was first announced, Canada’s first-ever national dementia strategy launches: A Dementia Strategy for Canada: Together We Aspire.
4. Now that the strategy has launched, what’s next?
The next big step is creating an action plan. Strategies succeed when they can follow clear targets, structures and deadlines. An action plan will handle this, outlining concrete activities for the Government of Canada to accomplish within a specific time-frame.
The national dementia strategy serves as the framework for the development of an action plan, supported by funding in the federal budget. The Public Health Agency of Canada will develop the plan in the coming months.
As well, the Minister of Health will present an annual report on the effectiveness of the strategy to Parliament, as required by Bill C-233.
In the meantime, it’s important that we keep the national dementia strategy a top issue. If we want to make progress on the objectives laid out by the strategy, more funding is needed (see below).
During the last election, Canadians sent almost 4000 letters to candidates for Members of Parliament (MPs), asking them to commit to a fully-funded strategy. This is an excellent start, and we ask Canadians to keep writing to their MPs. That way, we can ensure that dementia will remain a priority in Ottawa and more funding is given in the 2020 budget.
5. Will the national dementia strategy replace provincial services and funding?
No. The national dementia strategy doesn’t directly control any aspect of dementia care and won’t replace front-line health care – that remains the jurisdiction of the provinces. What the strategy will do is coordinate resources, scale up best practices and ensure equal levels of care across the country.
The strategy will also support provinces and territories as they build dementia action plans tailored to their own needs. Through a Federal/Provincial/Territorial committee established by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the provinces will play a key role in the development and implementation of the national dementia strategy.
6. Which provinces currently have a dementia strategy?
Five provinces have strategies or dementia action plans in place, or are in the process of developing their own dementia strategies: Nova Scotia, Quebec (French only), Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
In addition, some provinces and territories, such as New Brunswick, are developing seniors’ strategies that will address dementia as well.
7. What is the role of the Ministerial Advisory Board on Dementia?
One of the requirements of Bill C-233 is the establishment of an advisory board. This board provides evidence-informed advice to the Minister of Health on issues related to dementia care and support.
Members of the board are appointed for three-year renewable terms. The board can have up to 15 members, and current board membership includes representatives from dementia advocacy groups, researchers, healthcare professionals, people with lived experience, caregivers and officials from federal, provincial and territorial governments. The board is co-chaired by Pauline Tardif, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Canada, and Dr. William Reichman, President & CEO of Baycrest Health Sciences.
8. The 2019 federal budget is providing $50 million over five years to support implementation of the strategy. Is this enough for a fully funded strategy?
The Alzheimer Society of Canada has requested an investment of $30 million—annually—over a period of five years to implement the national dementia strategy. This recommendation was supported by HEAL, a coalition of over 40 health professional organizations and charities, as well as the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology in a November 2016 report on dementia-friendly communities.
Read these reports:
- HEAL: The Canadian Way 2.0
- Senate of Canada: Dementia in Canada: A National Strategy for Dementia-friendly Communities
Although the 2019 budget falls short of this recommendation, it’s an important initial investment and a decisive step forward. Once the strategy’s actions show the valuable positive impact it can have on Canadians living with dementia, we believe strongly that the Government of Canada will make further investments.
In advance of the 2020 budget, the Alzheimer Society of Canada calls on the Government of Canada to increase its annual funding to support the implementation of the strategy.
9. How does Canada’s investment in dementia research compare to other countries?
Canada will be spending $46 million on dementia research over the next five years through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). That isn’t enough, especially when compared to the research investments of other G7 countries.
According to Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), an international dementia advocacy organization, 1.0% of the societal cost of dementia should be devoted to funding dementia research. With direct medical costs of dementia care around $10 billion annually, an investment of 1% would translate to a research budget of about $100 million—more than twice the current CIHR investment.
10. What other countries currently have national strategies in place?
There are currently national dementia strategies or plans in 31 countries, 26 of which are members of the World Health Organization (WHO). The Alzheimer Society of Canada is a member of ADI, who are encouraging countries to begin the planning process leading to the development of national strategies.
For the latest news on Canada’s national dementia strategy, follow the Alzheimer Society of Canada on social media: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And you can contact your local Alzheimer Society for more information.